Five things we learned this weekend: Grand Final special

Neil Barraclough

One – The magic of the Pat whisperer

If Wigan fans don’t already have enough to thank Pat Richards for, they can start pointing Saturday’s Grand Final in his direction too.

With Blake Green out for the count and receiving oxygen, it was Richards who roused the wounded warrior.

Green said: “All I can remember is Pat came over and whispered in my ear: ‘We need someone tough to lead us, and if you hang tough we’ll win this game.’

“He just kept telling me to hang tough, hang tough and that’s what our club is about, we don’t let anyone down. Pat’s inspirational for the team and I didn’t want to let him down.”


Two – Not a dry eye in the house

Expect some wet eyes in Wigan come Tuesday.

That’s the day Richards packs up his bags and Sam Tomkins next expects to be sober.

Stood beer in hand in the Wigan dressing room, Tomkins said: “It’s sad that it’s ending, but if there’s a way it’s got to finish, then this is it. There’s not one regret.

“It’ll hit home when I sober up in about three days. It’s a bit of mixed emotions. I know it’s the last time I’ll experience it with this group of boys, but I’m ready for a change and I’m really excited about what’s to come in New Zealand.”

Richards added: “It won’t sink until Tuesday when I go clean out my locker, get my old boots and kicking tees and say goodbye to everyone.”


Three – Seeing double with the Comeback Kids

A brilliant achievement for Wigan, who can stick a proverbial two fingers up at every critic (including, embarrassingly, this one) who wrote them off at the start of the year as having lost too many key players.

Now Shaun Wane can reflect on a Wembley and Old Trafford double, with Saturday’s result the biggest ever comeback in a Super League Grand Final.

Down Under, Sydney Roosters did something similar, surging back from 18-8 down to beat Manly 26-18 in the NRL Grand Final.

Michael Jennings’ brilliant try – already being described as one of the greatest in Grand Final history – finally settled it, bringing home a Minor Premiership/Grand Final double for the Roosters and new coach Trent Robinson (remember him?).

Next year’s World Club Challenge is looking a beauty…


Four – Does Westwood’s thuggish cheap-shot risk his England place?

Has Ben Westwood punched his way out of England’s strongest 17?

If you were Steve McNamara going up against the Aussies or Kiwis, would you trust a man who’s quite happy to risk getting sent off less than two minutes into a Grand Final?

Westwood only stayed on because no officials saw the incident; had they seen what the cameras picked up, it’s likely Richard Silverwood would have been forced into stronger action.

Have a look at the England squad. You could still name a fearsome pack and bench without any potential discipline concerns over Westwood or Gareth Hock.

How about this for starters: Graham, Roby, Hill, Sam Burgess, Farrell and O’Loughlin, with George Burgess, Lee Mossop and Carl Ablett coming off the bench.

And there’s still no place for Tom Burgess in that lot.

Whatever McNamara eventually decides, at least England have got options. It’s been a while since we’ve been debating which top line players to leave out of the side.


Five – D-Day is coming…

Amid all the excitement and merriment of the Grand Final and forthcoming World Cup, it’s almost slipped under the radar that a decision on the sport’s restructure could come on Wednesday.

After a brilliant Grand Final with only four overseas players, more quality options available to the England coach than ever before and a Super League competition that 50 per cent of the competing clubs probably feel they can win, we’re not entirely sure what the objective is.

But hopefully they’ll chose the common sense option, rather than the one that risks making rugby league even more inaccessible to a general public that already sometimes struggles with the concept of play-offs.

Whichever option the RL Council plumps for, and whenever they make that decision, we wish it every success. Whether it’s the decision we’d have liked or not, the biggest wish of all is for rugby league to grow.

Any opinions on the weekend’s action? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough